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Introduction to Electronic Music

Learn the basic skills, history, and tools of modern electronic music. All styles welcome!
4.7 (72 ratings)
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2,545 students enrolled
Created by Jason Allen
Last updated 6/2016
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  • 4 hours on-demand video
  • 19 Articles
  • 2 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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This is a general course for people with little or no experience producing electronic music. This course will cover all general aspects of music making (key, pitch, form, harmony), through basic audio concepts (waveforms, frequency spectrum, etc.) ending at basic concepts of synthesis and MIDI.

The class will be taught by J. Anthony Allen (PhD), an instructor of music composition at Slam Academy, McNally Smith College of Music, and an Ableton Certified Trainer. All ages and skill levels are welcome.

About J. Anthony Allen

J. Anthony Allen (PhD – Music / Ableton Certified Instructor) has been teaching private lessons since he was 15 years old. He has worn the hats of composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, sound designer, DJ, remix artist, multimedia artist, performer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Allen’s has several feature film credits as a composer, as well as commercials for television and web.

Who is the target audience?
  • Everyone interested in getting started producing, mixing, or DJing. This is the place to start.
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What Will I Learn?
In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of audio signal processing and recording.
You will learn how MIDI works, where it comes from, and how to use it to produce.
You will walk through the history of these tools in a light and fun way.
View Curriculum
  • No software is required for this class. No experience with electronic music, or music in general, is necessary.
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 30 Lectures Collapse All 30 Lectures 04:25:37
Digital Audio Production
9 Lectures 01:22:12

Why take this class, what we will cover, and how I will cover it.

Preview 00:31

A summary of the main points in the first video.

Preview 00:52

As you might guess, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. In the lecture below, I've condensed my normal lecture on this down a little bit, but you still get all the main points. If you are going to be making electronic music, you should know your roots.

Preview 00:17

Summary and recap of video 2.

Preview 01:13

Electronic music production as come a long way since Max Matthews. Like I said in Lesson 1, the fundamental principals are the same. But we don't need a computer the size of a building any more. In fact, by todays standards, you don't need a particularly fast computer. You need something speedy, but not super top of the line.

Hardware & Software

What kinds of hardware and software do we need in order to make some music? In this lesson we explore the options from several perspectives - including price.

Video 3: Hardware and Software

Summary and recap of video 3.

Video 3 Recap
All About MIDI
6 Lectures 01:03:32

You can kind of think about all the work we do as producers being the crafting of 2 kinds of material: Audio and MIDI. That's probably a big over-simplification, but it holds true on a general level. In our first 2 lessons we talked about working with audio, and in these next 2 lessons, we will talk about working with MIDI.

MIDI Basics

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) - how to use it, how not to use it, and how to incorporate it into your music.

Video 4: MIDI Basics

Summary and recap of video 4.

Video Recap 4

In this lessons we are going to look at building some music using the piano roll editor in Ableton. If you are not an Ableton Live user, don't worry. Everything I'm going to talk about in this lesson is pretty universal on the different DAWs. So you should be able to apply it in whatever you are using.

Producing with MIDI

Video 5: Producing with MIDI

Summary and recap of video 5.

Video Recap 5
Putting It All Together
10 Lectures 01:39:44

In this video: Working with loops. We talk about file types, file formats, and other general production tips.

Working with Loops

Video 6: Working with Loops

Summary and recap of video 6.

Video Recap 6

In this lesson: Reason (another app), ReWire (a way for apps to talk to each other), Flattening (a way to simplify your session) and Exporting (a way to finish your tracks).

Reason, Rewire, & Exporting

Using Reason, Rewire, and Exporting to complete and polish your tracks.

Video 7: Reason, Rewire, & Exporting

Summary and main points of video 7.

Video Recap 7

Synthesis, generating our own sounds in a synthesizer from scratch, is a very important aspect of Electronic Music. It's fairly tricky to learn and can be daunting. In this lesson, I try to simplify synthesis into it's four most important aspects.


The basics of audio synthesis, how to use a synthesizer, and how to program your own sounds.

Video 8: Synthesis

Recap and Review of Video 8.

Video Recap 8

Hurray - you made it to the end of Introduction to Electronic Music - Online!

Closing Thoughts
Bonus Videos
5 Lectures 17:26

In this video, we will take a preset in the Subtractor in Reason and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.

Subtractive Synthesizer Patch Deconstruction No. 1 (in Propellerhead's Reason)

In this video, we will take a preset in the Analog Synthesizer in Ableton Live and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.

Preview 06:30

I've been asked to talk a little about Audacity - a free program useful for audio editing. Here is a short overview of it. Its a great program!

Using Audacity (Free software)

There is so much more to learn!

Bonus Lecture: Discount Offers & Mailing List

It looks like the handout has gone missing from earlier lectures. Here it is again in case it doesn't show up above anywhere.

The Handout!
About the Instructor
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Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer

J. Anthony Allen has worn the hats of composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, sound designer, DJ, remix artist, multi-media artist, performer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Allen is a versatile creator whose diverse project experience ranges from works written for the Minnesota Orchestra to pieces developed for film, TV, and radio. An innovator in the field of electronic performance, Allen performs on a set of “glove” controllers, which he has designed, built, and programmed by himself. When he’s not working as a solo artist, Allen is a serial collaborator. His primary collaborative vehicle is the group Ballet Mech, for which Allen is one of three producers.

J. Anthony Allen teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN., and is an Ableton Live Certified Trainer. He is a co-founder and owner of Slam Academy, a multimedia educational space in downtown Minneapolis. Recently, Allen founded Hackademica – an innovative net-label for new music.

J. has a PhD in music composition, 2 Master’s degrees in music composition and electronic music, and a bachelors degree in guitar performance. Through his academic travels, Dr. Allen has received numerous awards along the way.

If you run into him on the street, he prefers to be addressed as J. (as in, Jay.)

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